Bromley’s Conservative Councillors have moved to dispel fears over changes to the borough’s libraries following a misinformation campaign by activists.
Some residents have been in touch with us recently about the proposals to ‘outsource’ Bromley’s libraries to a not-for-profit company.
The Council has confirmed that the proposed changes to the library service will not lead to a single library closing, or a single minute being taken off opening times. If the proposal is approved, the operator would need to run the same level of service or better.
The Council has spent a lot of time looking at the way it works in order to protect frontline services, bearing in mind the tough financial environment it’s facing. Over the next few years, Bromley has to find £24m of savings from a £192m budget. Doing nothing is not an option. It has long been recognised by councils of all political colours, that commissioning companies and charitable trusts to provide services brings value for money for the council tax payer and improved efficiency.
The proposal would keep all libraries open while reducing costs. The libraries would remain in council control, with professional librarians, but would be run by Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) – a not-for-profit organisation which was established by a Labour authority to run their library and leisure services. It is virtually identical model to the charitable trust which has successfully run the Borough’s leisure centres since 2004. Staff will be transferred under TUPE regulations protecting their terms and conditions and membership of the Council’s pension scheme.
The savings would be achieved through economies of scale; GLL operates more libraries than Bromley council, so it has greater buying power – for example when purchasing books and computers. It could also reduce back office costs through avoiding duplicate tasks. Public consultations have been supportive of the proposals. In a consultation of 1,837 people in 2014-15, 57% of respondents supported the option of the library service being run by a trust or charitable provider. This is exactly the proposal.
The council also continues to invest in libraries – with brand new ones opening in Penge, Orpington and Biggin Hill over recent years – and is looking to continue that trend, for example at Chislehurst library.